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SANBS all set to start COVID-19 convalescent plasma trial

The trial tests the efficacy of the use of antibodies found in the blood of people who've recovered from the disease as a possible treatment for current patients.

Picture: Pexels

CAPE TOWN - The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) will soon start with its COVID-19 convalescent plasma trial.

The trial tests the efficacy of the use of antibodies found in the blood of people who've recovered from the disease as a possible treatment for current patients.

When approved, the enrolment criteria stipulate that patients should be hospitalised for COVID-19-related symptoms but not be on mechanical ventilation.

One component of the research protocol that involves the collection of the convalescent plasma from COVID-19 patients has already begun.

SANBS senior manager for operations testing, Marion Vermeulen, explained that the second protocol, a randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial, would see the antibodies being given as therapy to patients currently sickened with COVID-19.

"This protocol has been submitted to the South African National Blood Service's Human Research Ethics Committee, the UCT HREC committee and it's been approved provisionally and now we are ready to submit to SAHPRA for approval as a randomised trial, hopefully in the next week."

Six hundred patients will participate in the trial.

Vermeulen said that the convalescent plasma was harvested from people who recovered from COVID-19 and had been symptom-free for 28 days.

"They can donate their plasma through a process called apheresis and during apheresis the red blood cells are given back to the donor, so we only collect the plasma part and then this plasma, that's containing all these antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, can then be transfused to another patient who currently has COVID-19."

It's hoped the neutralising antibodies in the plasma will start fighting the coronavirus in patients whose bodies are still developing their own antibodies.

Convalescent plasma was found to be very effective in the treatment of SARS-CoV-1 and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

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